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Global Crossing pumps up partner program, takes on enterprise apps

Global Crossing is expanding its channel partner program to aid its push into enterprise services and applications.

International IP network operator Global Crossing is expanding its partner program to include more enterprise applications, upgraded channel support and a farther-reaching network.

Global Crossing is one of many telecom companies with the advantage of owning large networks that could boost their push into enterprise IT services. That push could pose a growing threat to global systems integrators like Electronic Data Systems, Cap Gemini and a handful of others.

The company's IP-based dedicated network has a core that connects to nearly 400 cities in 30 countries and services that extend out to nearly 700 cities in 60 countries. The company recently announced the expansion of the network farther into Latin America and the U.K.

With that reach, Global Crossing-affiliated solution providers can resell its network capacity and enterprise applications. But the company also sells converged voice and data, as well as other enterprise applications, directly into Fortune 5000 companies and through its partner channel.

Until now, Global Crossing partners have sold IP virtual private networks (VPNs), dedicated Internet, international private line and online support for those services. With the upgraded Global Partner Program 2.0, those partners can now sell IP VPNs with six classes of service -- up from three -- enabling users to prioritize time-sensitive applications like voice and video on the network. Partners can also now sell voice and data over IP (VoIP), Ethernet services, router visibility and collaboration applications.

Later this year, partners will also be able to include hosting services. Global Crossing recently established a data center in London for applications hosting throughout Europe, and it moved its Miami data center to better position it for hosting in the U.S.

In addition, the company will extend partner support with new pricing structures, a dedicated support team, joint product development and strategic marketing consulting. The last part of the program expansion includes a revamped partner extranet that will provide product information and sales tools, among other support resources.

"We saw an opportunity in the marketplace from a lot of carriers looking to serve enterprise customers [that had] global requirements for IT-based solutions," said Omar Altaji, Global Crossing's senior vice president of worldwide carrier services. So Global Crossing took its own enterprise product portfolio and packaged parts of it for the channel, he said.

Now the company has 57 partners with nearly 1,100 accounts in mostly Fortune 5000 companies.

Global Crossing's numbers are tiny compared to larger telecom companies playing in enterprise IT. The company has about a 1% market share. Meanwhile companies like Verizon Business and AT&T's enterprise business unit have made much larger inroads.

The threat here is largely for global systems integrators, said IDC analyst Leslie Rosenberg. Telecom service providers are typically global and can scale quickly because of their networks. Moreover, she said they are "actively buying" integrators and business services organizations to become more competitive.

The deals are plentiful. Major pacts include France Telecom's acquisition of Equant, forming Orange Business Services -- now a major player in enterprise IT. Another example is BT's acquisition of Infonet in 2004, which gave the British telecom giant access to the U.S. data networking market in the U.S.

But it's not all gravy for these companies. Rosenberg said telecom service providers "lack the high touch and level of services that traditional systems integrators bring to the table."

As for Global Crossing, Altaji definitely sees the advantage of being able to control costs by owning network infrastructure. Eventually, Altaji said, customers will look to the company to bring together the local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN). When that happens, the company is prepared to go down that path too.

Global Crossing partner and telecom services provider Telstra Inc., which already has its own network infrastructure in Asia and Europe, is using Global Crossing to offer advanced IP services and global WAN outside of its existing territories. Specifically it is using Global Crossing's capability in North and South America.

"Upgrading the network is always helpful," said Andrew Morawski, president and CEO of Telstra, about Global Crossing's improved partner program. "What it comes down to for us is support," he said, praising the company's new portal and increased network visibility. Both have an impact on the amount of business Telstra can do, he said.

Telstra is in the process of launching its own partner program, in which it expects to enlist major systems integrators that sell to multinational companies. That channel will launch at the end of May.

Global Crossing won't expand its number of partners past 60 for the short term, although that could change over time.

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